Coal-fired power plants and other manmade sources have reduced toxic mercury emissions about 60 percent since 1990, according to the EPA’s Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress.
The report is the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act to inform Congress of progress in reducing urban air toxics.
Using national emissions and air quality data, the Urban Air Toxics Report shows the progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. These include:
- A 66 percent reduction in benzene;
- An 84 percent decrease of lead in outdoor air;
- The removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxics like arsenic, benzene, lead and nickel from stationary sources and another 1.5 million tons per year (about 50 percent) of air toxics from mobile sources. This is significant because air toxics (also referred to as hazardous air pollutants or HAPs) are known or suspected of causing cancer and can damage the immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems;
- And, about 3 million tons per year of criteria pollutants, like particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, have been reduced from cars and trucks as co-benefits of air toxics reductions.
Additionally, the EPA’s proposed updates to emission standards for petroleum refineries would reduce emissions from the 150 petroleum refineries across the US, many of which are located near communities. It would also reduce emissions of chemicals such as benzene, toluene and xylene by 5,600 tons per year.
Photo Credit: industrial plant emissions via Shutterstock